I couldn’t breathe. COULD. NOT. BREATHE.
“Where’s my hat? My paddle? Thank god I’m wearing a leash. Shit. SHIT. SHITSHITSHITSHIT. HOLY F&*^ THAT HURTS.”
The wind howled. I could see the docks. I could practically touch the docks. I could see Patty and Sharna but I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breathe so I couldn’t talk.
“Somehow I have to get back on this board and get back to the dock,” I told myself. I jumped with my good leg and flopped on my board. I layed on it catching my breath. Something was wrong. Really really wrong. Tears pricked my eyes. The wind kept howling, pushing me toward the docks and the boats.
I put my feet in the air, stuck my hands in the water, and paddled.
I started feeling the saltwater course through my veins and the rock of the ocean five years ago when I took surfing lessons from Nancy and Tracy. They hung with me and I was terrible. It took me 14 months to stand up but I never gave up. You can read about that journey here. I was never a good surfer and I’m still not a good surfer but the things they taught and the ocean taught me during those 14 months are things I’ve carried with me into paddling and, quite frankly, into the rest of my life.
You can’t swim against a rip current to get out of it. You have to take a hard right or a hard left.
Protect your head when you surface. Look around and assess your situation.
Don’t turn your back on the ocean. You’ll have to deal with whatever’s coming at you, somehow.
If there’s a wave too big to paddle over, duck under it. Let the rolling energy pass over you before you come up for air. Don’t stand there and let it plow over you.
If you paddle for a wave, commit to it. Don’t pull up. Go for it.
The shallows are not your friend.
Somehow I paddled to the dock, reached up and grabbed the cleat. I looked up at Patty.
“Oh, SHIT, Katie.”
She picked up her board and nearly blew away in the wind. “Let me put this up and come back and get you.”
I hauled myself up to my knees, cursing and sweating. I reached up and put my hands on the opposite side of the skinny dock and pulled myself up until my belly was stretched across the dock and my feet were on my board. I twisted and sat. My toes were bent in five different directions. I leaned down and straightened them out and rolled my foot around. The muscles felt like they’d seized up. They were tense and throbbing. Patty and Sharna grabbed my board. I picked up the paddles and pfds and CamelBaks and followed them up the dock, limping.
“It was fun until the last five minutes,” said Sharna.
“That it was,” I said.
We had done a downwinder from CPC to Patty’s house. The wind was lined up perfectly blowing 20 mph from the SSW turning the ICW into a playground of bumps. The Phantom hopped on them and slid like a hot knife through butter. At the Figure 8 bridge some bozo did doughnuts in front of a sailboat trying not to slam into the bridge.
And I flew off my board and hit the bottom.
I limped up the stairs, down the walk and into the porch, where I fell on a chair. Sharna brought me a bag of ice. It stayed on my leg for four hours. They moved boards around and I sent texts and made phone calls. “There’s something really wrong. I don’t know what.” I squeezed out tears and tried not to scream when I couldn’t find my husband. (Poor Joe. He was asleep and generally confused to be roused by a screeching phone call “I THINK I BROKE MY ANKLE.”)
Patty and Sharna brought me snacks and figured out how to move cars around and get me to the doctor (as there was a major garden/shrub/house painting/carpentry project underway at home). We went for ice cream on the way down to get my car.
Fast forward through a hasty shower, a trip to Medac, a medical emergency that wasn’t mine, and the X-Ray.
“How’d she do this?”
“Something with her paddleboard.”
“How old is she?”
The doctor who saw me first saw me wheeling over. “Really old.”
I stuck my tongue out at him and laughed.
“I’m Katie.” I stuck my hand out. “That’s my foot you’re looking at.” I shook the other doctor’s hand.
“Stay OFF OF IT.” He said to me.
“You take this CD and these papers and you go to Wilmington Ortho on Monday Morning and you tell them you’re broken. They should see you.”
The Nurse put me in a splint and a temporary plaster cast and pulled up her pants leg. She pointed to a big scar from her foot to halfway up her calf.
“STAY OFF OF IT. Or you’ll end up like me.”
They put me on crutches.
“BABY STEPS. Foot goes back not up. GET A KNEE SCOOTER.”
“WTF is a knee scooter?”
Sharna and I left to go to the pharmacy. The pharmacist hands us the bottle of Vicodin and says “Have a nice night!”
Sharna looks right at her and says “Well, we WILL now that we have the DRUGS!”
“Seriously.” She rolled her eyes and looked at me. “Why would you wish someone you’re handing a bottle of painkillers to have an awesome night?”
We got home and waited for Joe to come back with Pizza. The gardeners/carpenters/pressure washers were gone. We sat and looked at each other.
“This is certainly the most adventurous of all of the adventures,” Sharna said.
While Patty drove me home from the paddle shop earlier I said “We have really been through a lot together, Patty.”
“We certainly have. In a short period of a couple of years.”
No driving. No walking. No weight bearing.
No flying. No bumping the leg.
No paddling. No surfing.
Flights canceled; plans scrapped. Phone calls: I can’t come to your race. I can’t come to your race. I can’t do the Cape Cod Bay Challenge. I don’t know if I can do the Chattajack.
Gear shift: prone paddling. I’m going to learn to prone. There’s my light at the end of the tunnel.
This morning Joe took me to get my cast. While I was hopping up on the table, Debbie, the cast specialist tried to help me and I shook her off.
“Miss Independent, is that what we’re dealing with?” she asked Joe.
He rolled his eyes.
While she pushed on my thigh and moved my ankle around she said “You’ve seen that movie Frozen, right?”
“There’s this song. . . ”
“Let it Go”
“YES! That is my THEME SONG. People are so tense when they’re in there. They need to LET IT GO.”
She wrapped my purple cast and smoothed it down. “Don’t get it wet. Keep a fan on it. Put your leg up. AND STAY OFF OF IT.”
Let it go.
Let it go.
Let it go.
I’m the planner. I don’t stop. I don’t sit down. I say “no” a lot but I say “yes” a lot more. Compared to where I was 15 years ago I’m relaxed, but compared to most people, I’m pretty tightly wound.
Last night Joe and I went down to our friends’ house. I’ve been an exceptionally crappy friend to them over the past year, but when I texted “I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to some homemade banana pudding,” their answer was “What time?”
I sat in their carport letting the breeze blow by me and watching the puppies play with each other while people walked in and out of the house putting hot dogs on the grill and pouring drinks and looking at the garden and chasing the puppies down the street.
I let it go.
It is freeing to not be able to do almost anything that you usually do. You think about everything new that you could do.
You take a hard right turn out of the current that’s been sweeping you along and pick a different direction. You’ll end up safe eventually, just not in the same place you started.
Joe took me up to Dry Corp this morning and they gave me a waterproof leg cast cover. THANK YOU DRY CORP!!!!! Check them out online.
This summer instead of getting better at surfing, at least for a while, I’m going to prone.